Cursing the Christians?
A History of the Birkat HaMinim
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About the author
Ruth Langer is Professor of Jewish Studies in the Theology Department at Boston College and Associate Director of its Center for Christian-Jewish Learning. She received her Ph.D. in 1994 from Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion in Cincinnati. Her research and writing focuses on Jewish liturgy and Christian-Jewish relations.
Ruth Langer offers an in-depth study of the birkat haminim, a Jewish prayer for the removal of those categories of human being who prevent the messianic redemption and the society envisioned for it. In its earliest form, the prayer cursed Christians, apostates to Christianity, sectarians, and enemies of Israel.Drawing on the shifting liturgical texts, polemics, and apologetics concerning the prayer, Langer traces the transformation of the birkat haminim from what functioned without question in the medieval world as a Jewish curse of Christians, through its early modern censorship by Christians, to its modern transformation within the Jewish world into a general petition that God remove evil from the world. Christian censorship played a crucial role in this transformation of the prayer; however, Langer argues that the truest transformation in meaning resulted from Jewish integration into Western culture. Eventually, the prayer shed its references to any specific category of human being and lost its function as a curse.Reconciliation between Jews and Christians today requires both communities to confront a long history of prejudice. Ruth Langer shows through the birkat haminim how the history of one liturgical text chronicled Jewish thinking about Christians over hundreds of years.
Oxford University Press
; November 2011
396 pages; ISBN 9780199783236
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Title: Cursing the Christians?
Author: Ruth Langer
Do Jews Curse the Christians? - Forward
Thu, 09 Feb 2012 02:13:06 -0800
ForwardDo Jews Curse the Christians?ForwardDuring a year studying medieval liturgical manuscripts, Ruth Langer found herself ...
In the press
" A comprehensive treatment...This is not a book for students of ancient Judaism alone, but for anyone interested in Jewish-Christian relations more broadly...One needs to thank Langer for having devoted so much time to the careful examination of such a vast number of liturgical manuscripts." --AJS Review
"Enthusiastic about theology, cautious about history, and accurate about manuscript study, Langer has provided us with an impressive textual and theological histsory of an intriguing piece of rabbinic liturgy." --The Journal of Religion
"This is an exhaustive and definitive study of an important Jewish prayer. The author shows a remarkable combination of wide-ranging scholarship and common sense."---John G. Gager, William H. Danforth Professor Emeritus of Religion, Princeton University
"Ruth Langer is the pre-eminent American scholar of Jewish liturgy. I highly recommend Cursing the Christians?. It is an example of first-class academic scholarship and will be of interest to students and scholars of Jewish-Christian relations. Her examination of the birkat haminim will become the standard academic work against which all future studies will be measured."---Ed Kessler, MBE, Founding Director, Woolf Institute, University of Cambridge
"As fine a work of liturgical research as one is likely to find in a lifetime: a combination of ferreting out manuscripts, rereading the classics, reengaging with late antiquity, and tracing the evolution of an important prayer from then until now. Beautifully constructed and gracefully written, Cursing the Christians? will remain 'the state of the art' for a very long time to come."---Lawrence A. Hoffman, author of Covenant of Blood: Circumcision and Gender in Rabbinic Judaism
"The massice and meticulous collection of sources in 'Cursing the christians?' is certainly impressive, almost monumental."--Forward
"Cursing the Christians? is first-class liturgical scholarship and makes a powerful theological statement about modern Jewish-Christian relations. The book will be of interest to a variegated readership. It is the best and most comprehensive treatment of its subject available today and will remain the magisterial study of this topic for a long time."--Studies in Christian-Jewish Relations
"Langer brings a lot of evidence to her study...Langer does carefully open the complex history behind a seemingly, simple text."--The Forward
"This is a very thorough and solid study of the Birkat ha-Minim...Recommended to interested scholars of Jewish liturgy and to academic and synagogue libraries."--Association of Jewish Libraries